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Bipartisan Housing Policy Falls Short

New Conservative is glad to see a bipartisan approach to housing policy. Unfortunately, however, the policy shows how out of touch both Labour and National are with the practicalities of suburban housing planning, and the consultative process that local bodies engage in.

While the concept of giving local councils some direction on their planning priorities was necessary, this one size fits all approach is not practical. Allowing four storey (three storey in the announcement, but four storeys are possible by clever design within the parameters) housing right across all residential neighbourhoods in our main cities is a very clumsy approach. This means that, without prior warning, anyone could suddenly have a four storey building being built over the fence that blocks all sun and views and compromises their privacy and enjoyment of outdoor space.

There have been many instances over the years of people and communities fighting to maintain the character of their neighbourhoods, to maintain their privacy and amenity, through the existing resource consent process. This ensures developers and neighbours work together to address the existing community’s concerns. Under this new policy that process will be removed for most developments.

It is true that compromises need to be made when living in an urban environment, but not in the way of having our suburban context peppered with tall buildings, dominating over single storey dwellings. A better approach would have been to give Councils a toolbox of different types of density that they could overlay across their municipalities as they saw fit. Grouping four storey dwellings together perhaps, but maintaining some leafy suburbs and variety.

Many Councils are also facing dire issues in providing and maintaining sufficient infrastructure to meet their current rate payer’s needs. Increased density of housing also requires upgraded provision of services - roading, sewerage, stormwater, transport, etc. Councils have the best knowledge of where to place increased housing to be most readily serviced rather than the scattergun approach this policy presents.

This policy statement is very dictatorial and ignores the process of consultation that many Councils are currently working through to achieve their targets of providing for future housing needs. Surely local Councils have a better understanding of where intensification of housing is most suitable, and could manipulate their planning rules accordingly.

New Conservative sees this announcement to enable housing supply as sadly lacking a robust consultation process, and is overtly dictatorial. We need practical and workable solutions to housing supply, not clumsy, wholesale mandates, from increasingly remote political leaders.

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